by Hal Bent, BostonSportPage.com
One-hundred and two games into the season and the Red Sox still remain a mess on and off the field. Only sixty games are left in the season. After a big three-game series with the New York Yankees (on National broadcasts, sparing the eardrums from the horrific banter of Jerry "No Insight of any Value" Remy and Don "Dope" Orsillo), the Red Sox have clawed their way to .500 yet again. Has time run out on the 2012 season? Is there still hope for the second Wild-Card play-in spot? Add in the non-waiver trade deadline looming a day away, and the intrigue continues for the most disappointing team (OK, maybe the Philadelphia Phillies were more disappointing this season) of the year.
The Red Sox are still in last place, a half-game behind the Toronto Blue Jays. They are four games out of the wild card, but take that with a grain of salt, as there are seven other teams in the same or better position. What are the odds of the Red Sox outplaying all of these teams and leaping ahead to grab one of those two spots. Taking two of three from the New York Yankees picked up a whole game in the standings. Let me put it this way, it was a late July series and I got no trash talk text messages from the Big Yankee. The Red Sox have been reduced to a pesky gnat!
The problems start at the top: John Henry is out of the picture, apparently. With no leadership from him (or any leadership ever from Tom "Hey it's me. That guy that produced Roseanne on television" Werner), it falls to the ever-divisive Team President Larry Lucchino. Lucchino set-up the team to fail this season, over-riding the wishes of General Manager/Puppet Ben "Theo Lite" Cherington by hiring Bobby "Booby" Valentine as Field Manager and then saddling him with Bob "Moose" McClure as pitching coach and Gary "I hate you, Bobby" Tuck as Bullpen Coach. Without the backing of the General Manager and coaches who were thrust upon him and not his choice, Valentine finds himself stuck in the middle with players openly pining for the manager they ran out of town last year. Add in the former General Manager holding the team hostage as they failed to take advantage of their leverage as Theo Epstein tried to move to the Chicago Cubs front office, instead letting it drag out for months and getting next-to-nothing in return.
With the dysfunction already in place, the Front Office then brought back the players who drove Terry Francona out of town, as the entire "Chicken and Beer" club returned, with no ramifications whatsoever. Rather, they walked into training camp knowing that they had all the power, as they drove the prior manager out of town and were never punished. Add in designated hitter and designated crybaby David Ortiz doing his annual sulking about his contract, this time whining incessantly about being paid three times the going rate for an over-thirty-five year old designated hitter. Sure, he was stuck on a one year deal, but since that is the only way he has performed these past years (and since no one else wanted him), he was pretty much stuck no matter what.
Ben Cherington then started unloading the team's cheap, young talent (Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick) and their starting shortstop (Marco Scutaro) in return for...well, in return for crap. As millions of dollars went onto the disabled list early and often, first baseman Kevin Youkilis got into it with Manager Bobby Valentine, resulting in months of lingering resentment and eventually a trade of Youkilis, a former all-star who can play first-base or third-base, by Cherington for..well, in return for crap. Add in second-baseman Dustin Pedroia making the statement (about his boss, no less) that it is not how things are done around here, again with no ramifications in any way shape or form. The inmates were truly running the asylum.
Now, as the trade deadline approaches, everyone should be scared of Cherington making any deals, not encouraging them. As much as the team needs to look for 2013, the question of who belongs making decisions seems to be more important than actually what gets done. Ben Cherington is batting .000, Bobby Valentine is counting the days until he is gone, and the architect of the entire mess, Larry Lucchino, talks of lollipop dreams like the team is going to magically flip a switch as if they were the 1978 New York Yankees. Sorry, Larry, but Bobby Valentine is no Billy Martin, David Ortiz is no Reggie Jackson, and Dustin Pedroia is no Thurman Munson. Besides, there is no Louisiana Lightning taking the ball every four days.
This team is cooked. As former Giants, Patriots, Jets, and Cowboys coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what you are." This is a .500 team. This team is walking, talking, dysfunction. This team is not going 45-15 down the stretch, they are most likely going 30-30. The Red Sox need to think about who is in the future plans and who needs to pack their bags, and the time to do that thinking is shrinking.
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